Harvesting and Drying Herbs

Harvesting and drying herbs from your garden is a good way of ensuring a continuous supply during winter and when you are unable to harvest fresh.

The best time of day to pick herbs for drying is in the mornings when the dew on the plants has dried off.  Carefully cut the branches, pick the leaves as desired, taking care not to damage the plant, thereby allowing for regrowth.

If necessary, rinse herbs off to get rid of dust or any insects that may be on the plant material.  Plants such as lavender, tarragon and mint can be made up into little bunches, tied up with some string and suspended in an airy, warm (but not hot and no direct sunlight) room and let them dry over a week or 10 days.  When the leaves are dry but not too brittle, the flowers or leaves can be removed from the stems by simply stripping them off the stems.  A good place to suspend bunches of herbs is on a clothes drying rack.

Herbs such as basil and parsley are best dried by placing the leaves onto some trays or paper in a well ventilated room, away from direct sunlight.  The leaves can occasionally be turned to ensure even drying.

Once the herbs have dried, it is best to store the leaves whole, as breaking them down or chopping them up allows all the flavour to escape.  To preserve colour and flavour, it is preferable to store dried herbs in airtight opaque containers.  Brown paper bags work really well too.

It is advisable to mark each container with its contents as well as the date it was harvested.  That way it is easy to identify the older stock that should be discarded once the new season,s harvest has been brought in.